SHANGHAI Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday his administration will not comply with a federal court order rejecting his effort to avoid reducing California's prison population, pledging to litigate "until the Supreme Court tells us that we're not on the right track."
The Democratic governor, in China for a weeklong trade mission, said he was unaware that a three-judge federal court on Thursday had threatened to hold him and top prison officials in contempt of court, though he appeared unfazed by the prospect.
"I'm sure the people in L.A. would like to see more prisoners out on the streets," Brown said. "See, we have two problems here: Some are saying there are too many people being let loose, and then we have the judges saying, not enough, we need another 10,000 out there. So somewhere we're going to find the golden mean, and I will do my best to make it work."
The dispute follows U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton's decision in April denying Brown's bid to get prison health care out from under federal control.
A panel consisting of Karlton and two other judges ordered the state in 2009 to reduce its prison population to improve health care in the system. Brown has refused to decrease the prison population by the required 9,000 inmates to reach the court-ordered level.
"Look, California prisons are run by honorable men and women," Brown said. "They're doing the best job possible. We have, I believe from what I'm being advised, among the best health care in America and probably in the world. Now the judge sees it differently, and all I can say is I respect his differences, but we will take our case to the higher courts."
Brown said he plans to personally inspect the prisons at issue.
"I'm personally going to be taking my own personal inspection tour of those prisons which the judge feels are not up to snuff, and I will certainly listen and read what the critics say," Brown said. "But I have to tell you the constitutional standard is deliberate indifference, and as far as I know there is no one deliberately indifferent to the health needs of California prisoners, and if I find such a person, he will be fired on the spot."
Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.